Hailing from South Korea, chef Jinhee Lee has certainly come a long way since working as kindergarten teacher before she moved to Canada 11 years ago. Setting down Canadian roots in Calgary, Lee began her career in the kitchen in SAIT's Culinart Arts program while putting her head down and working in Calgary kitchens. Primarily mentored by acclaimed chef Duncan Ly during her time at Raw Bar at Hotel Arts, Lee now works alongside Ly at his restaurant Foreign Concept as the executive chef.
In 2016, the chef was named one of Avenue Calgary’s "Top 5 people to watch in Calgary’s food scene" and with her upcoming appearance on the sixth season of the top-rated Top Chef Canada, we'll have to admit that they certainly called that one!
"I love the Calgary culinary scene because of its tight-knitted chef community," says Lee. "[We] really work together to support each other."
Don't let the smile fool you, though. Her determination to win makes her a serious force to be reckoned with in a competition like this. Over the course of her culinary career, Lee has competed in many competitions locally, regionally and nationally. In 2015, she was being the only female competitor in the Calgary regional competition for Gold Medal Plates and after not feeling 100 per cent satisfied with a silver medal finish, she competed again in fall 2016, claiming the top spot. Following that, Lee proceeded to the national competition where she beat out chefs from across Canada to take home gold.
If you find yourself in Calgary before Top Chef Canada premieres on Sunday, April 8 at 10 p.m. ET, head to one of Lee's favourite spots to eat and drink and you just bump into the chef herself.
For lunch, it has to be Shiki Menya for their ramen. At Shiki Menya, the focus is on quality and not quantity. They only make a 100 bowls a day, so once it's out, it's out! They make their own noodles in house, and their pork is sourced from local farms. My favorite ramen bowl there is their Goma Mazemen.
For dinner I head down to Prince’s Island Park, and I spoil myself at the iconic River Café. You cannot beat the scenery around the park! The River Café serves true Canadian cuisine. Not only are their ingredients locally sourced, they also grow a lot of their own things and use ingredients that naturally grow in the area. They also have a great wine list!
For drinks I head to Klein/Harris for some of the city’s best cocktail curated by renowned mixologist Christina Mah. Her cocktails are so beautiful and always perfectly balanced.
Another one of my favorite places to go for drinks is Ssome. I love to unwind there for late-night drinks after work. It has causal but lively atmosphere. They serve great snacks and cheap soju!